ALGIERS (Reuters) - Mali’s Tuareg-led rebels said on Wednesday they would approve a preliminary peace deal aimed at ending decades of separatist uprisings, but would not attend a long-awaited ceremony on Friday in the capital Bamako.
Efforts to conclude the U.N.-backed peace deal have floundered, with the Tuareg coalition saying in March the proposal fell short of their demands for a region they call Azawad.
The talks have also been stalled by fighting between the separatists and rival armed groups loyal to the government that began in late April.
Diplomats and the Malian government have since increased pressure for the rebels to sign, saying it is important to ensure unity in the face of a militant Islamist threat.
“The Coordination of the Movements of Azawad (CMA) inform the national and international public of its decision to initial the document of 1 March 2015 from the Algiers process to honor its prior commitments,” CMA spokesman Moussa Ag Acharatoumane said in a statement.
“As for the signature date of 15 May, settled on without consulting the CMA, we will not be present,” he added.
The rebels agreed to sign on the condition that further discussions are held on their demands before a final all-encompassing agreement is struck, the CMA said.
Algeria’s state news agency APS said the CMA would sign the accord on Thursday during a meeting in Algiers.
The CMA’s refusal to attend the Bamako ceremony could be embarrassing for the Mali government, which approved the agreement in March and has invited several African presidents, according to state television.
Tuaregs have risen up four times since Mali’s independence from France in 1960. Most recently, they formed an alliance with Islamist militants in 2012 to seize the desert north. A French-led military intervention scattered the militants, although isolated attacks continue.
Reporting by Patrick Markey and Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Editing by Tom Heneghan